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CBA Ask the Experts: Volume 1, Number 1


East's Dilemma, submitted by Robin Sanders

This deal was played in an IMP Team Match at a recent Regional.

Dealer: East

Vulnerability: Both





♣ AKxxx







East opened 1 and when partner responded 1 she was concerned that a strong jump shift rebid of 2 would misrepresent the strength of her hand.  Deciding on caution, East rebid 1.  West then rebid 1NT.  East’s dilemma now was whether to bid 2 (not absolutely forcing, but highly invitational, she thought) to learn more about partner’s hand and range, or instead to bid 2NT.  2NT might have been the best lie,  but could have left diamonds wide open.

West passed the 2 bid.  Even though we know that this is not a true 4th suit forcing auction,  should this bid have been viewed as forcing for one more round?

What is the best way for East to have bid this hand?  The other team made it to 3 NT and made 5. East on the other team opened with a 1NT bid.


Panel Responses:

Jeff Goldman kicks it off:

1 feels more descriptive than 1NT. Planning one’s auction is important so after 1 of a red suit by pard, I have an easy 1 bid. 2 would be a stronger hand (many play close to game forcing[i]) so for me, 1 is normal and because I play Walsh style[ii], it implies an “unbalanced” hand (not 4=3=3=3 or 4=x=x=4), very likely 4 spades and at least 5 clubs.

Over 1NT I like 2NT better than 2, as 2 might imply 4=1=3=5 shape. Both 2NT and 2 show extra values. Neither are forcing. I don’t think West should have passed 2 because he/she could have had a worse hand. I’d suggest 3 because hearts is clearly a weak spot (I suppose opener could even be 4=0=4=5).

 Had opener bid 2NT instead, responder has an easy raise to 3NT.


Rich DeMartino, similarly, and emphasizing that the hand is too good for 1NT, suggests the following auction: 

1 (too good for 1NT - may easily miss a game opposite Qxxx   xxx    AJxx   xx   or many other hands that would pass 1NT)       


1  (Not good enough for 2)

1NT  (Clear cut)

2NT  (Clear cut. 2 is a misdescription. I would rebid 2 with hand like: KJTx  —  AJxx  AKJxx. Partner can have: xx  Jxxx  KQxxx  Qx)



Larry Bausher agrees: 

2NT by East after 1NT - 100%.  I agree with the 1 opening rather than 1NT.  Game invite at IMPs with extras after partner limits his hand with no apparent fit.  I would not bid 2.  You can’t worry about wide open diamonds.  Partner rates to be balanced.


Jeff Horowitz recommends a similar auction, but as a matter of style prefers up the line by responder here:

On this auction I would raise to 2NT. However, I would have responded 1 on AKxxx rather than 1. I agree with the 1 rebid.


John Stiefel prefers to start with 1NT:

Best as East to open 1NT and not get stuck for a rebid at the third turn. Once you don't, best to raise to 2NT (a slight overbid) after partner rebids 1NT.

The 2 bid instead suggests 4=1=3=5 distribution (possibly 4=0=3=6) and about 17 HCP. It is not forcing.

The West hand is worth a jump to 3NT at the third turn given the actual auction. JTxx of hearts instead of just Jxxx makes all the difference in the world.  With only Jxxx, I would raise to 3.


Larry Lau also goes the notrump route:

 I too would have opened 1NT, so as to avoid trying to "catch up" on the strength of the hand.

 In the actual auction I would rebid 2NT - usually 18-19, but a better description of the hand.  

 POINT: when opening a hand, it's always good to have an idea of what one intends to rebid versus several possible responses from partner.  Having opened 1, East should have had an idea of how she wanted the auction to go after a red suit response from West.


And continuing the notrump theme, Linda Green:

I would have opened 1NT with the East hand.  While the distribution is not ideal, it would have made the subsequent auction less problematic.

After the 1 opening and 1 response, my preference would have been to bid 2 NT instead of 1.  I would upgrade the hand because of the decent 5 card suit and the possibility of still finding a spade fit if there is a 3 bid available for checking back to see if opener has either a 3 card heart suit or 4 spades. 2NT is slightly aggressive but playing in IMPs the object is to reach game if at all possible.


Summing up (moderator): The majority auction of 1-1-1-1NT-2NT-3NT gets to the good 3NT contract, as do other reasonable alternatives. I have sympathy with the 2NT rebid rather than 1, and it could succeed by right-siding notrump if partner has Axx of diamonds, for instance. The danger, however, is that partner could have something like Ax Kxxx Kxx Qxxx and reasonably judge to raise 2NT to 3NT when 6 is making easily.



Notes (moderator):


[i] A jump shift is game forcing in traditional standard bidding, but in particular in some modern styles that allow very light responses, it is sometimes played as not game forcing.

[ii] Bypassing diamonds to bid a major suit when holding less than game forcing values and bypassing major suits to rebid 1NT with a balanced hand are part of the Walsh system, named after the late Richard Walsh, that was the predecessor to Two Over One.